Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Revisions: Cleaning out the closet of your manuscript

Since I'm deep in the middle of revising my December 2009 book, Yuletide Protector, my mind is overloaded with images of cleaning. When revising, the type of writer you are will determine the amount of revisions you'll need in your book.

I'm a self proclaimed puzzle writer. I write in pieces. As I've mentioned in many blogs and workshops, I see scenes in my head and write them down as the come to me. Some are very vivid and some are bare bones. They're almost always out of order. My hard drive is full of story ideas that have beginnings and endings written and nothing in between. In creating my books, I piece my scenes together like a puzzle, adding scenes as they come to me and later figuring out where there are holes in the landscape of my story that need to be filled in.

I liken revising this way to cleaning my closet. You know, sometimes you have things in your closet you forgot you put in there. A purse, a pair of boots from college you forgot about and old pair of jeans that are a few sizes too small but you can't part with, and all the other items you use on a daily basis. If your closet is like mine, there are definitely things that don't belong in there along with things that are good, maybe even real good, but need a little updating to make them fabulous! My manuscripts are the same.

My first step is what I call "checking the hangers." I go through each scene and I check to see if there is enough information there to A. warrant having the scene B. to make the scene enjoyable while propelling the story forward and C. see if there is TOO much information that will bog down the flow of the story. (Kind of like having too many pairs of slacks on one hanger.)

The next step is "counting the hangers and getting them in the right order." Those of us who are puzzle writers will almost always have holes and have scenes that are in the wrong order. Rearranging the "closet" is part of manuscript cleanup.

Once the hangers are in order, I fill in the holes. You know, you have a great outfit but you don't have a pair of heels to go with it? (I'm learning that I need to go see Lenora because she's the gal with the shoes!) Same for the manuscript. For me it's usually a transition scene that needs to be added.

The toughest part for me is tossing things out. You know you have things in your closet that don't belong there, but you just can't part with them. I tend to fall in love with scenes and it may take me a while to figure out why something isn't working. In the end, after hemming and hawing, the problem is usually that I have to cut a scene in the story because it's just not fitting right. So I toss it.

Once the tossing, counting, and rearranging is done, I step back and assess my work by reading through the whole book start to finish. I usually set aside a block of time when the kids and my husband aren't around so I can read straight through the manuscript and get a real feel for the flow. I tweak as needed, add a word here and there and then I print. I've learned that if I don't print right then, and send it off, I'll find something else to work on in the story and I'll never let it go. It's kind of like never inviting anyone over because you're never quite sure if your house is clean enough for company. So I avoid that. I like company.

Make sure you check out my blog on Friday at the Craftie Ladies of Suspense website! Many blessings, Lisa Mondello


Cheryl Wyatt said...

Love this analogy as my mind works in much the similar way.

Great post!


Barbara Phinney said...

Wow, what a great article/blog. As a woman who has a really messy closet and a manuscript in desperate need of major revisions, I can SO agree with this.
In fact, I've hired my teenaged, jobless daughter to clean out my closet for me.
I don't dare let her near my manuscript, especially with her wicked sense of humour!

Vince said...

Hi Lisa

Your revision description reminds me a little of Michelangelo who would ‘revised’ a block of marble by cutting away the stuff that did not belong in the statue.

You just have to ‘see’ the beautiful novel that is waiting to come out.

For inspiration, I like to look at pictures of Michelangelo’s unfinished statutes as they seem to be forever struggling to break out of their marble enclosures.

Thanks for the insights.


Lisa Mondello said...

Cheryl and Barbara, I like to think I'm not the only one with a messy "closet". Glad I'm not alone.

Vince, thanks for stopping by. I like what you said about Michelangelo's statues. I'll have to check out that website.


PamelaTracy said...

My office closet is full of books instead of hangers. I've figured out that they are all historicals. Why? Because they've been in the closet for more than a decade which mean none of the heroes and heroines have cell phones.

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

I love this analogy, Lisa!

LOL, Pam, on the cell phones.

Barbara Phinney said...

Pam, your historical characters comment is hilarious! I love it!
Vince, I've heard that about Michelangelo. It's so neat to see a statue as he sees it.